Jul 29, 2009

Reducing Neighborhood Poverty Increases Later Economic Mobility (Duh!)

A recent study by the Pew Charitable Trusts Economic Mobility Project found that residing in a high poverty neighborhood raises the chance for "downward mobility" by 52% for middle class African-Americans. Middle class African-Americans are more likely than than Whites to live in neighborhoods with a poverty rate over 20%. Pew reports that between 1985 and 2000 almost 66% of middle class African-Americans lived in high poverty neighborhoods, compared to 6% of whites.

Since Pew first began reporting data on the impact on economic mobility for persons residing in high-poverty neighborhoods there has been a debate about what policy approaches make sense. For example, nudging middle class African-American families to leave high-poverty neighborhoods for the sake of their children would increase risks for the poor children who remain.

According to an article in the Washington Post, the report findings suggest that place-based efforts to reduce poverty and improve outcomes for children may be the way to go. One local example of this is the Harlem Children's Zone. President Obama's Promise Neighborhoods policy initiative, mentioned in the Post article, seeks to replicate the Harlem Children's Zone model in 20 poor communities across the country. The good news is that reducing poverty improves upward economic mobility for African-American and Latino children in poor neighborhoods.